(Re)claiming Just Transition

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Who controls the meaning of the phrase “Just Transition”?

Adapting Canadian Work and Workplaces (ACW) Collaborating Researcher, Professor Dimitris Stevis of Colorado State University, says that we have recently entered a period of deep contestation over the ownership and meaning of Just Transition.

As any concept, whether democracy or sustainability, becomes more prominent it becomes increasingly contested. This is no mere disagreement over definitions. Rather it reflects competition over investing terms with particular meanings.

That is now the case with Just Transition, a concept that has been around for several decades but has only recently become globalized. It is important that we demand that green transitions serve the common good because they are not inherently socially just and, in fact, are frequently less just than other transitions, such as gender or racial emancipation. Nor are they necessarily ecologically just. Decarbonized industrial policy can be as ecologically unjust as the current, carbon-based, industrial policy by externalizing harms across space, time and ecosystems.

It is, therefore, important to think about it systematically so that we can, at the very least, differentiate initiatives that co-opt and dilute its promise from initiatives that contribute to a global politics of social and ecological emancipation.


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